Although there are different opinions regarding the real role of the Sophists in Greek society, the most accepted tenet is that they represent a group of common thinkers and professors (not in the modern sense but in the sense of speaking to the masses) who operate in the same manner of fashion as, for example, a comedy troupe, a group of troubadours, or a fraternity. In their case, they were public speakers and teachers who were well-trained in semantics and experts in the arts of citing evidence.
Sophists are often men hired to conduct oratories, lessons, or speeches in a similar way as the modern day Toastmasters would do. They could also be compared to the best legal "dream teams", law professors, and philosophy debaters of their generation. Maybe even a champion debate team. They are true and hardcore debaters.
Yet, they are indeed famous for being quite gifted at their craft. Not only do they have total control of the spoken word, but they also suceed in quoting excerpts from written works, messages from the gods, and other facts that would serve as perfect documentation and evidence to the points they debated about. All this, they do for the sake of the art of debating. This is their true passion.
Although their philosophical goal seems complex, the fact is that a Sophist basically worships common sense, the use of knowledge for productive purposes, and the retrieval of information for the purpose of evidence. It is the most purist way to use intelligence in all of its manifestations: As current knowledge, as the capacity for acquiring knowledge, and as the power of summoning knowledge.
As a final thought, Sophists are also the raconteurs of their time. They literally talk and write a lot of witticisms and paradoxes. Socrates detested them and considered them as mere talkers. This is interesting, considering that Socrates was , himself, a talker and professor. However, the difference between a sophist and a philosophist is their ideal goal: The sophist looks for a solution while the philosopher questions. The sophist wants an answer while the philosopher believes that curiosity leads to even more conundrums. It is understandable why the two would detest each other.